This week, my humor column, “A Matter of Laugh or Death,” discusses my adventures on a recent weekend retreat at Holy Family Retreat Center in West Hartford. Because that essay gets published in a secular newspaper, I did not delve into the religious aspects of the retreat. But since these “Merry Catholic” essays are routinely used as teaching tools by Vatican theologians (yeah, sure!), I'd like to share an interesting spiritual incident that occurred during the retreat.
Well, during one of the workshops, the speaker quoted Martin Luther. (Yes, THAT Martin Luther! Pretty amazing for a Catholic event, huh?) Luther once said, “Whatever your heart clings to is really your god.”
I said to myself, “Well, my heart clings to my wife and children and grandson, but I don’t think that’s what Marty meant.” (In my mind I call the founder of the Protestant Reformation “Marty.” It might be a bit flippant, but it’s a lot nicer than what the nuns teaching my catechism classes in the 1960s called him.)
I thought some more, and started to realize that my heart clings to a lot of other things, especially my precious stuff. I’m attached to my home and car and 401k and bank accounts. But I really love my electronic gizmos, my iPhone and laptop computer and iPad and Airpods Pro (which are, if you’re not sure, amazing Bluetooth earbuds).
It was at that moment that I said to myself, “Self, you need to go to Confession ‘cause I think you’re dabbling with idolatry here.”
So, that’s just what I did. And when I said to the priest, “...it’s been 9 days since my last Confession,” he did look at me kind of funny, but when I explained how the earlier workshop had awakened my conscience, he smiled knowingly and was very helpful. Then he said to me, “You lack one thing. Go and sell all your possessions and give to the poor. Then come follow Jesus.”
No, I’m kidding! The priest did not compare me to the Rich Young Ruler in the gospel. Besides, I’m not rich, I’m not young, and I don’t rule anything except maybe the TV remote. If there was a gospel story about me, I’d be called the Middle-class, Middle-aged, Middle manager.
I’m very glad I made the decision to go on a weekend retreat. And going forward, I’ll be much more careful about what my heart clings to. So, thank you very much, Fr. D., and thank you, Marty!